This blog is here for you to find fun learning activities to do with your children. We share great ideas we find and love on the Internet, as well as ideas we come up with on our own! We also like to share resources we find helpful.

To find ideas for your child, click on the age range blog label or on the theme/topic you are looking for (on the left side of the page). In each post, we try to list optimal age ranges for the activity, but you must judge for yourself if it is appropriate for your child. When you try an activity out, please comment and let us (and everyone else) know how your child liked it!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Talk With Your Child

Alright, alright, I know this seems like a silly suggestion to some of you. Of course we talk to our children. But, as a kindergarten and first grade teacher one of my biggest issues was that my students did not know how to communicate. They had very limited vocabulary, babyish speech habits, and could not answer a question or relate an event. This spilled over into their behavior, their social skills with other students, and of course their academic work, particularly in phonics and reading.

The intelligence of children is intimately connected with the quality and extent of their exposure to language. -Montessori from the Start

If you are a quiet person like me, start talking! I nannied for a toddler back during my quiet, shy early college days and honestly we didn't talk a whole lot since she had nothing to say besides baby jabber and I felt silly talking to myself. Her parents were also not the talkative type, they did tons for their daughter and showed her lots of affection, they just weren't very verbal people once they got home from their jobs each evening. That girl ended up in speech therapy to get her talking clearly when she was about 4 years old. Nobody is around, get over any silliness you feel talking "to yourself" when you're at home with the baby and just start getting into the habit of talking and listening to your child.

Therefore, it is imperative to talk to your baby often throughout his day, naming objects, discussing actions, relating events, and describing people and their apparent feelings. -Montessori from the Start

Talk, talk, talk--adult talk, not baby talk. Talk to her while you're walking in the park, while you're riding in the car, while you're fixing dinner. Tell her what you're doing while you're doing it...This sort of constant chatter lays a verbal foundation in your child's mind. She's learning that words are used to plan, to think, to explain; she's figuring out how the English language organizes words into phrases, clauses, and complete sentences.-- The Well Trained Mind p.27

So how do we do that specifically?

  • Tell your child what you're doing or about to do--"Mommy is putting on her coat, then I will put on your coat so we can go to the store."
  • Name things-- "here's the kitty" (point) "would you like the ball?" (hold the ball up)
  • Read Aloud--even if you read college textbooks aloud as you nurse your baby or as your toddler plays in the bathtub, it is language! More traditional books like The Snowy Day board book are great too :)
  • Sing--children often memorize songs naturally so songs are a fantastic tool for language introduction and show the beauty of words put to a tune. Tobias "sings" in the car along with me all the time. I can't understand a word he's saying but it's awfully cute and he's having fun!
  • Listen--when your baby or child babbles at you in nonsense toddler language simple smile, nod, and exclaim "oh really?" "isn't that interesting" "hmmm" in response. This encourages the use of verbal words to get Mom's attention and to communicate things.
  • Name and Describe Feelings--when your child is tired and cranky, say "you are tired because it's your nap time. Let's go in your room and read a book to settle down for sleep."
In The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems, Tracy Hogg suggests that rather than ignore your child's cries or placate them quickly with false words of reassurance ("the shot won't hurt at all", "the dark isn't scary") we should instead identify the emotion they are trying to convey. If your baby is crying from hunger, you would say something like "oh, you must be hungry, it's hard to wait for food sometimes". If your toddler is at the store with you and grumpy, say "I know you're grumpy and it's hard to behave when you're grumpy. We'll be home soon and then we can play a game or watch a video". Avoid an accusatory tone or trying to play down the emotion. Whether it is valid or not your child is feeling it. If you ignore it you miss a valuable opportunity to give your child the coping skills they need to manage the uncomfortable emotions that are bound to occur sometimes. Language is power. If they can name their feeling and why they feel that way they have the power to manage that feeling so it doesn't overwhelm them.

Montessori from the Start by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen
The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise
The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg


Laura said...

I can't agree more. This is super important. Thanks for posting about it! :)

Maureen said...

This is great. I need to do this more. I was like your nanny family with William. I didn't talk much to him and he had a speech delay until he was 2.5. I realize now some of it was related to food sensitivities, but nonetheless, I should have talked to him more. Lucas benefits from hearing me and William talk.

But do you have any suggestions on how to get a conversation going with a 5-year-old? I want to get into the habit of talking to him and using big words so he'll use them, but when I start a conversation, it goes nowhere.

Me: How was school?
William: Good.
Me: Who did you play with?
William: Kailey

His answers are always short and sweet!

Raegan said...

What about asking more specific questions that require detail? Start with something of your own. "The funniest thing happened today! I was at the grocery store and ____. Did anything funny happen at school?" or questions like "Tell me the best thing that happened today. What was the worst thing?"

Plowmanators said...

I am sure you have heard of "open-ended" questions. Shoot for asking questions that require more than a one-word answer. Also, follow up. Who did you play with? What did you play? Is she fun to play with? Why?

Be sure you are using non-verbals that tell him you want to hear what he has to say. Look at him and put everything else down. Face him and make eye contact.

Rachel Stella said...

Great post.

I'm so glad I read baby whisperer when my son was a newborn. The part where she says to talk to your child all day (as well as talking "with your child not at your child", identifying their feelings and validating them, letting your child know when you are going to do something to them etc.) has made such a big difference for me. At first I felt really silly, especilly when my son was just a newborn, but talking to him all day about everything has grown into a great habit. He still started talking a bit late but I think without the constant talking from a young age he would have 1)started talking even later and 2) started to understand things at a much later age--he seemed to understand things much sooner than other kids his age.

Kristy Powers said...

It is so true that this makes a difference. There are so many baby activities and even words and concepts that my second son gets that my first son did not until he was older. The difference was how much I talked to them and did age-specific activities. I just kind of thought my older son would learn from watching me do adult things. I missed out on some fun with him as a baby. He talked later than some, but not all that late especially compared to boys. My second son said his first word earlier. In fact, he's doing everything about a month earlier.


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